Book Review: The Viking Diaspora


by Judith Jesch

New York: Routledge, 2015. Pp. xiv, 230. Tables, notes, biblio., index. $44.95. ISBN: 1138020796

The World the Northmen Shaped

Prof. Jesch (Nottingham), who has specialized in the study of the Vikings, gives us an ethnic studies overview of the history, culture, and achievements of what she calls “the Viking Age,” roughly from AD 750 to 1100. As tends to be usual, the treatment is generally favorable, in contrast, for example, to studies of Roman or British imperialism.

In a short introductory chapter, she discusses who the Vikings were and what is the evidence is available about them, addressing documents, linguistic analysis, archaeology, and contemporary account. This is followed by five chapters organized not chronologically, but on broad topical themes.  

Jesch then looks at the physical world of the Vikings, which extended from Scandinavia to Greenland, Russia, and into the Mediterranean, and their encounters with the local environment. There follows a chapter on Viking migrations, movements, and settlements, and their interactions with local cultures. Jesch then takes a look at familial customs, myths and spiritual life, discussing how these adapted to varying environments. In the final chapter, “Networks and Identities”, Jesch looks at the development of Viking cultural influences.

Within each chapter, Jesch draws upon a broad range of evidence, from sagas and chronicles, to arts and archaeology, linguistics and DNA, and traces of the Viking presence in modern lands. 

Although tending to neglect the Norse role in the Mediterranean, The Viking Diaspora, a volume in the Routledge series “Medieval World,” is very valuable for those interested in a deeper looks at Viking history and culture within the framework of Medieval times.


Note: The Viking Diaspora is also available in paperback, $44.95, ISBN 978-1-1380-2079-5, and in several e-pub formats


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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